It’s that time again, time for the HART summer markup! I advise that you please pay close attention to this cycle of changes, as a radically different scheduling system is being introduced on some bus routes. If successful, you can expect the entire system to follow suit in the months to come.
An overview of what’s coming
Most transit agencies tend to follow a fixed headway system, where buses arrive and depart at specific times of the hour. So for instance, a bus may leave a transfer point at :15 and :45 past the hour from 3:45am until 9:45pm, constituting a 30-minute headway during most of the service day. Most bus routes will have headways of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 75, 90, and 120 minutes. There are some exceptions depending on factors such as how popular a route is, and how many buses can efficiently operate along a route without becoming overloaded. The more frequent a route runs, the less you typically have to worry about having to wait long periods of time if you miss a bus. However, more frequency isn’t always the best option during rush hour, where traffic conditions are heavy. In some cases, frequently run bus routes can lead to a negative phenomenon called “bus bunching”. Bus bunching is when literally one bus on the same route is following another, often because the bus in front of it has become severely delayed. Transit agencies don’t like repeat instances of bus bunching because it puts strain on the rest of the routes, as well as on customers needing to make transfers and reach their final destination.
With the July markup, HART is trying to implement a more variable headway system that is managed in part by GTFS systems…you know…what powers OneBusAway. With a variable headway system (not sure if there is an actual name for this), buses are able to run in larger time blocks…let’s say for example…every 10 to 20 minutes, or every 15 to 30 minutes. During times where traffic isn’t as heavy, routes can run more frequent without too many issues. When traffic becomes severely heavy, buses will run less often to even out spacing between other buses and thus reduce the chances of bus bunching.
Affected routes are listed below and the changes will take effect Sunday, July 19 (Monday, July 20 for weekday only routes)
While HART may list the changes as “minor”, please keep in mind that in the long run, these changes will have a significant impact on the way that you catch your bus, and what time you get to your destination. In the coming months, you’ll probably hear HART staff mention OneBusAway even more as a great way to check when your bus will arrive. Additionally, Google Maps provides real-time GTFS info to show real-time arrival predictions. For those of you who do not have internet access, you can always call HART at 813-254-4278 to obtain scheduling information.